The 2013 NCAA tournament, aka March Madness, is here, and the most unproductive two weeks in workplaces across America has begun. Everyone will take leave from their day-to-day responsibilities and attempt to channel their inner fortune-teller; which top teams will fall first? Which unknown teams will make a run? Predicating the unpredictable is the job of the bracketologist, so let’s take a look at the sleeper teams and imminent upsets sure to give your 2013 bracket an edge.
1st round upset alerts:
(10) Colorado over (7) Illinois
The 2013 NCAA tournament is sure to make bracketologists cringe, and this is the first matchuo that will likely do so. Illinois is only in the tournament because of a miracle last-second win over Indiana; the Illini have lost four of their last six games and are one of the worst teams in the country at moving the ball to open teammates and setting up easy shots. They don’t have a strong rebounding presence and only shoot 42% from the field; Colorado isn’t all that much too brag about either, but they lack the obvious flaws of an Illinois team that will not last long in the tournament.
(13) Montana over (4) Syracuse
This might seem like a done deal, but not so fast: Montana is one the best 3-point shooting teams in the country (over 40%) and Syracuse has a porous perimeter defense that regularly gives up open looks from downtown. When Montana is hitting 3’s they are near unstoppable; and though Syracuse has a ridiculous edge in rebounding, it’s possible that Montana will prevail if they shoot lights out against a Syracuse defense that will certainly give them the opportunity. Syracuse is used to going a long way in March Madness, but Montana is a bigger obstable than their seeding implies. 2013 brackets, beware.
(12) Oregon over (5) Oklahoma State
The Oregon Ducks are inconsistent, and that explains their strangely low seeding. Still, they are a team that thrives in transition and can take advantage of Oklahoma’s knack for committing turnovers by scoring on the fastbreak. Oklahoma doesn’t have the kind of point guard that can run an offense, and that will hurt them when they have to start taking difficult shots. This will be a much closer game than the seeding would have you believe.
No. 8 North Carolina
More so than any other team competing in the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Tar Heels are hot. How hot? In their last 15 games, they have only lost to Miami and Duke, two of the best teams in the country. During this stretch, they have switched to a small lineup that utilizes four guards. But what the lineup lacks in size it makes up for in sheer offense; North Carolina has been draining three-pointers and is scoring over 76 points-per-game, which is good for the 15th best offense in the nation. They will have to get through No.1 Kansas, but that may not be so bad; as far as #1 seeds go, Kansas is among the weaker teams and can be beat by a more athletic, sharp-shooting team such as North Carolina.
The Belmont Bruins aren’t a household name, but they can play with the big boys. The team is led by an experienced squad of juniors and seniors, and they have four players scoring in double-digits. The Bruins feature one of the league’s most efficient offenses (fourth in the country in FG %) and a handful of proficient three-point shooters (18th in country in 3P %). Their first match-up comes against Arizona, a team that thrives off exploiting the inexperience of their opponent. They won’t find it that easy with Belmont. Expect a first round win from the Bruins at the very least; if they can consistently hit the three-ball, they will likely go much farther.
No. 8 North Carolina State
NC State hasn’t lived up to a lot of their hype. They still have the time, and the talent, to do it. They operate on of the best offenses in the nation (#11 in PPG) and feature five double-digit scorers, including one of the NCAA’s elite three-point shooters. They have a frontcourt that can rebound as well as score. If they can step up their effort on the defensive side of the ball, NC State will be a force in the 2013 NCAA tournament.